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26               A SEARCH IN  SECRET EGYPT
above the golden sands. Not till the beginning of last century did someone take pity upon it, when Captain Caviglia, ar enthusiastic Italian archaeologist and student of supernatural mysteries, attempted to excavate the upper part of its body, but such was the rapid invasion of sand that he had great difficulty in keeping the parts which he had already cleared from being reburied. In 1869 August Mariette, founder of the Egyptian Museum, in honour of the opening of the Suez Canal, made a partial effort, the fifth of its kind, to remove the ever-growing pile of sand, but he did not stay long at his task. Thirty-three years later Maspero, his successor at the Museum, raised a large fund in France by public subscription for the same purpose. Thus equipped, he was able yet again to bring the major proportion or the Sphinx to the light.
Maspero hoped to find at its base some opening that might lead into an interior chamber. He could not bring himselr to believe that this unique statue did not possess some undiscovered architectural secrets. But not a single opening or entrance was found. He then began to question whether or not the Sphinx rested on a terrace, below which might lie the secret chamber that he sought. The magnitude of the task of excavating the base was, however, too great for his limited funds, and American millionaires having then scarcely begun to interest themselves in Egyptology, he was forced to leave the work to posterity.
The seventh and latest effort was made a few years ago, when the Egyptian Government decided on a final clearance of the sand and brought into view hitherto unseen parts of the base lying in the oblong basin. The diggers completely exhumed the lower part of the great stone block, which had so long been buried, and revealed in detail the vast platform of rock, paved with long slabs of stone, upon which it stands. The entire enclosure surrounding it and much of the forecourt was also cleared. The forty-feet-wide flight of steps which led down to this platform was brought to light. At last, the Sphinx could be seen in its true dignity. A steep, solid, concrete girdle wall was then built around parts of the enclosure, to defend the Sphinx and keep the sandy enemy at bay. Never again, let us hope, will the swift-growing pile of yellow grains collect by degrees against the flanks of the Sphinx, to render vain this praiseworthy work of excavation.
And yet, one must not be too harsh in condemning the enemy. If the sands bury the statues and temples of Egypt,